DIVISION OF THE SCHOOL INTO GRADES
In the early days of this country, education was usually left for the elite. This was accomplished by tutoring, and small one room schools. After the Revolutionary War, Congress enacted a couple of bills to encourage education for all children. The Land Ordinance of 1785 and Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (especially act 3) set aside land for the building and operation of schools, and provided that education be necessary to good citizenship.
These one room schools usually housed 30 to 40 students of all ages and levels with one teacher. In some districts, the teacher would even stay at each of the childrens homes for a couple of weeks in return for their teaching. In some of the larger one room schools, the teacher would teach to the higher level and older students, and in turn they would teach to the younger and lower level students.
As more and more children were attending school, the one room shacks could no longer handle the demand for education that all of the children had at so many different levels and ages. Also, the government and the separate states were beginning to draw up requirements for education. The easiest way to overcome the crowded and run down buildings was to build new buildings, with many different classrooms, and some even had lunchrooms and gymnasiums. Eventually, students began consolidating and coming in to the schools from surrounding communities. This added to the need for larger buildings.
Guidelines for teachers became evident, also. Teachers had training to teach certain subjects and levels. But one question remained, what was the best way to split up the children with respect to their levels and needs? The best answer they found was age. At different ages, the students had different needs, and the best way to meet these needs was to group everyone of the same age brackets together. Initially, many of the small schools grouped them together with several ages in one room. Grades 1,2, and 3 would be together, while grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 were in another area. If the students moved on past this level, they would usually attend colleges or universities.
As the populations grew and expanded westward, the need for larger district schools became clear. Eventually, corporations formed with central administrations that oversaw several districts at once. The grades were separated into their own levels, and mandates were set for what had to be taught at each grade. The rise of elementary schools and secondary schools came about. Then middle schools were added years later.
Today, we operate on a 12 grade level system, plus kindergarten. It is amazing to see how schools have grown from one room buildings to large corporations with many schools to accommodate the youth of America.
Prepared by Kevin VanZant